UNC-CH students interrupt town hall meeting with list of demands

Posted November 19, 2015 7:06 p.m. EST
Updated November 20, 2015 6:01 p.m. EST

— The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill held a town hall meeting Thursday night to provide the campus community an opportunity to share perspectives on how to make the university more inclusive.

Shortly after the meeting began at 5:30 p.m. at Memorial Hall, a large group of students interrupted the event, claiming the university did not include them in the planning process. A few students read a list of 50 demands, ranging from higher faculty pay to the termination of the new UNC system president. The demands also included mandatory racial history education and the removal of statues like "Silent Sam," a Confederate war memorial on campus.

Other demands included gender non-specific housing and bathrooms, an increase in minority faculty members, increased pay for workers and payment for athletes.

A group of students, some of them from the Silent Sam Coalition, drafted the demands and released them ahead of Thursday's forum.

Senior June Beshea, who is a part of the group, said students should have been included in the planning of the town hall.

"It seems very much on their terms," she said. "They wanted to have this conversation with black students, but they did not reach out to any black students to be a part of the town hall, which says a lot about how they are trying to placate the student body more than engage them."

Senior Zak Bolak says he did not plan to attend the meeting but agrees with Beshea.

"I think that that's really important, that the minority or black students get their feelings out and lead the discussion," he said.

Tyler Niles said she was interested to see what comes out of the forum but said she is skeptical of the timing.

The town hall comes about 12 days after a student-athlete protest of racial incidents at the University of Missouri led to the resignation of two top administrators there.

"This should have been an ongoing thing that we should have already been talking about," Niles said.

"They are very scared," Beshea said. "If we know anything, our basketball team is king on this campus."

The town hall meeting was facilitated by Clarence Page, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and senior member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

"This is something we want to talk with everybody about," said UNC Chancellor Carol Folt. "Having these conversations and trying to make real progress."